The Portuguese Letter of Human Rights in the Digital Era

On 17 May, Law no. 27/2021 was published in the Portuguese official journal, Diário da República, approving the Portuguese Letter of Human Rights in the Digital Era.

The legislation is composed by 21 articles and it determines that the Portuguese State ensures the fulfilment of the European Action Plan, providing the rights, freedoms and guarantees of citizens in the online world. With the approval of the Letter, Portugal aims to be a leader in defending human rights in the digital environment.

The Portuguese Letter of Human Rights in the Digital Era establishes and provides the rights, freedoms and guarantees of citizens in cyberspace, namely the right “The right to be forgotten”, i.e. that everyone has the right to erase personal data that concerns them, and is able to request the support of the Portuguese State in that aim; to develop digital skills or even the right of assembly, demonstration, association and participation in a digital environment and protection against abusive geolocation.

Regarding geolocation, all citizens will have the right to protection against illegal collection and processing of information about their location when making telephone calls over any network, as the use of data on the geographical position of the user may only be made with their consent or authorisation.

The text also guarantees the right to privacy, digital wills, cybersecurity, neutrality of the law, and protection against misinformation.

The law provides for the right to a digital will, whereby all persons may express their will in advance regarding the disposal of their content and personal data, namely those contained in their personal profiles and accounts on digital platforms, under the terms of the contractual conditions of service provision and applicable law, including regarding testamentary capacity. Posthumous deletion of personal profiles on social networks, or similar, by heirs cannot take place if the right holder has left any indication to the contrary with those responsible for the service.

In the context of protection against disinformation, for the purposes of the law, disinformation is considered to be any demonstrably false or misleading narrative created, presented and disseminated for economic advantage or to deliberately deceive the public, and which is likely to cause public harm, including a threat to democratic political processes, public policy-making processes and public good. The Portuguese Letter also provides a clear definition of “demonstrably false or misleading information”, including manipulated or fabricated texts or videos, as well as campaigns to flood e-mail inboxes and the use of networks of fictitious followers.

The degree states that the “use of artificial intelligence should be guided by respect for fundamental rights, ensuring a fair balance between the principles of explainability, security, transparency and responsibility, taking into account the circumstances of each specific case and establishing procedures to avoid any prejudice and forms of discrimination”.

The Portuguese State is to support the creation of fact-checking structures by duly registered media organisations and encourage the attribution of quality seals by trustworthy entities which have the status of a public utility.

The Letter also provides that all citizens have the right to lodge complaints with the Regulatory Authority for the Media (ERC) in cases of misinformation. It also provides for a social internet tariff applicable to economically vulnerable final clients.

The Portuguese Letter of Human Rights in the Digital Era will come into force in July, 60 days after its publication.

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